Back in 2008, international consultant Richard Susskind published a book that was bound to give a lot of law firm lawyers the jitters. It was called The End of Lawyers: Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services
"[F]irms are being called upon to reduce their fees, to undertake work on a fixed fee rather than an hourly billing basis, and to be far more transparent in their dealings with clients," Susskind wrote. "Also, they are coming to be selected, more than occasionally, on the advice of hard-nosed, incoming procurement specialists in client organizations rather than by old friends and colleagues. The legal market," he added, "looks set to be a buyer's market for the foreseeable future."
Of course, the economy is doing much better now than it was five years ago. And for all the talk about the demise of the billable hour, major American law firms continue to treat it as a central organizing principle. But concerns about the future have hardly evaporated, and apocalyptic books on the subject keep getting published. Recent titles include The American Legal Profession in Crisis
and The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in Crisis
What, then, must big firms do to survive and thrive in the years ahead? Four managing partners tackle that question for this month's cover story ("The Future of Big Law"). In one essay, Dan Grunfeld
of Kaye Scholer talks about what big firms need to do to compete more effectively against boutiques. In another, Laura Shelby
offers insights on what her firm, Seyfarth Shaw, has done to control costs. Jay Rains
of DLA Piper writes about the challenges of going global. And Molly Moriarty Lane
of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius makes the case for reinventing career tracks.
Also in this issue Bill Blum
writes about attorney John D. Barnett, a trial lawyer who has made his mark by defending police officers accused of on-the-job misconduct ("Projecting Doubt"). (Barnett's most recent high-profile case involves an Orange County cop who was charged with second-degree murder after he was caught on camera, along with several other officers, beating a homeless man.)
"Barnett loves to try cases," Blum observes. But unlike many lawyers who do this kind of work, Barnett himself is not an ex-cop. He also describes himself as a liberal Democrat.
Finally, it is my pleasant duty to report that California Lawyer
has won three Maggie awards from the Western Publishing Association for articles that we published in 2012. The Maggie for best news story went to Pamela A. MacLean
for her piece on the bankruptcy of Stockton "Sleepless in Stockton
," (December 2012). In the best feature category, Victor Merina
won top honors for his write-up on the state's patchy record of compensating factually innocent defendants for the years they've spent behind bars "(Adding Insult to Injury
," November 2012). And Stan Sinberg
took the best profile award for his story about Marty Singer, a Los Angeles attorney who, on behalf of his celebrity clients, makes unflattering news stories disappear "(The Muck Stops Here
," July 2012). Congratulations to all.